By Chris Garrou | Our Voice Senior Editor
I attended the “Come Together Fight Back” rally presented by the Democratic National Committee on Monday night in Portland. The headliners of this rally were Tom Perez, the recently selected Chair of the DNC, and Senator Bernie Sanders(I, VT).
I spoke with a few people before the rally began. One elderly woman, adorned head-to-toe with Bernie memorabilia, came to hear the Senator whom she claimed rekindled her passion to fight for social justice. A group of high school students said they weren't sure who Tom Perez is but they wanted a chance to hear Bernie Sanders out because they planned on voting for progressives in the mid-term election. They thought he might bring insight to what that would entail.
A woman waiting to get into the rally with her daughter told me that she was hoping to receive a message of what she could do as a citizen going forward. She also said she felt less anxious about her daughter's future in this country when she saw hundreds of people were waiting in line to hear the anticipated words of progressive encouragement.
Once inside I made my way to the front. There I stood just a dozen feet away from the lectern from which one of the most influential politicians of modern times was going to deliver his message to the fully packed Maine State Theater. I was here to see Bernie Sanders, for whom I caucused and who was the catalyst for my own renewed interest in giving a damn about politics.
I also wanted to hear what Tom Perez had to say. I had already made many assumptions based on his recent selections as the new DNC Chair. I say selection, because Superdelegates, not the voter base, vote for DNC Chair. This is a mechanism I hoped Sam Ronan would have dismantled had he won his bid for the DNC Chair.
My hope springs eternal.
Tom Perez addressed the opioid epidemic and condemned Governor Lepage for stating that “Narcan doesn't save lives, it only postpones death.” He claimed that, “The mission of the new DNC is not simply to elect the next president of the United States; Its to elect Democrats from the school board to the Senate.” Perez said, “This President has targeted immigrants and torn apart families.” A crowd member shouted out a retort: “So did Obama!” A good point to ponder.
Mr. Perez went on to describe Trump's latest hypocritical executive order, “Hire American, Buy American”. He joked, “The wall he wants to build is going to have to have a garage door, because all of the products he makes in Mexico are going to have to drive through it!” More crowd members shouted, “Tell us what you support!” The DNC security had one man removed. Perez suggested that we “take to the streets” to protest Trumps actions. He ended with the request: “Let's cause some trouble; Let's cause good trouble!”
Senator Bernie Sanders took the stage with a standing ovation so loud my eardrums nearly ruptured. Bernie gave an updated speech to the crowd while still hitting the familiar notes that we all came to hear. He spoke of folks who are “giving up on the corporate media who are discussing everything in the world except what is most important to the working people in this country.” He explained that this past Presidential election had the lowest voter turnout since 1996. He pointed out that in 2014, the midterm elections had a mere 36% of voting age citizens cast a ballot. “Turn outs for local elections and primaries were even lower than that!” To this statement a baby shouted out, “Yeah!” The crowd laughed at the infant's perfect timing.
Sanders made his call to action. “Our job is to revitalize American democracy. Our job is to bring millions of people into the political process who today do not vote or participate in the process in any way. Our job is to radically transform the Democrat party.” For this statement the crowd cheered thunderously for nearly a minute. He continued, “To change all of the Democrat parties into a 50 state party. Into a party which must not continue to ignore half of the states in our country, including some of the poorest states in the country. Our job is to create a democratic Democrat party! A grass roots party where the decisions are made from the bottom on up, not from the top on down!”